Carolyn and Bob Zobel posed outside their custom-built cabin in 1997. The property was destroyed by fire this past August, writes a heartbroken Carolyn.

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Cabin Country: Burned into memory

  • December 30, 2013 - 10:00 AM

We found our wooded lot on a not-too-large Wisconsin lake when we stopped at a booth at the Minnesota State Fair 26 years ago. We built the cabin to our choosing, with help, and started spending long summer weekends there, while loving the quiet beauty of winter the most. Fourteen miles of curving, hilly trails of the Washburn County Forest spread out behind our access road, while our forested lot afforded us a view of the lake. That lake was the perfect size for my first cabin purchase: a canoe.

We chose half-logs for the exterior. My husband, Bob, and our boys insulated and finished the inside walls. The carpenter gave us the cedar cathedral ceiling. My handmade quilts were on the beds, with my son Bill’s handmade wooden nightstands beside each one. My son Jim’s post-digger enabled him to cut through roots, affording us with 35 sturdy wooden steps leading to the lake ­— with a midway landing, railings and all. A screened-in porch was later added off the kitchen, complete with skylights so I could feel I was always outside, even while napping.

After 17 years, Bob decided to sell. A nice family purchased it. Even though we accepted their check and signed on the dotted line, I still felt the cabin was mine. I was just letting them use it, I told myself. Maybe someday I would buy it back.

On my last day, as I walked slowly up the hilly drive, I turned, stopped and looked back. I felt satisfied. We had added a picturesque cabin and many new pine trees to an already forested landscape. That was the footprint we were leaving on this Earth. I turned and walked to the car.

When memories moved in, I tried to remember the sizable black bugs with long black feelers that would find their way down my shirt. Or the huge black spider that kept lumbering along, even with poisonous white spray covering its mammoth body. These thoughts were my attempt to make it not so perfect.

This past Aug. 16, my lake neighbor, Eva, called me on the phone at 2 p.m. “Your cabin is gone,” she sobbed. Gone where? I wondered. “An inferno,” she said. It had been burning from unknown means for two hours. Firemen from two townships came to ensure it spread no further. Nothing was left. Even the precious tress, too close to bear the heat, toppled. No one had been home for several hours.

So I dwell, but I still can’t believe the cabin is gone. The new owners will rebuild, but that means nothing to me. That is just the way it is.

Carolyn Zobel, Bloomington


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